Bulbs are Planted!

Finally, the last of the bulbs are in the ground.  Recent thunderstorms have made it a challenge to complete, but it’s finished and can be marked off the “TO DO” list.  The crocus “Cream Beauty” are always included.  Although they are good at  repeat Crocus 2-26-18 compressed  performance, each year I add 100 to be able to plant additional spots and to replace those eaten by critters or that rot over winter in our cold clay soils.  The perky Tulip batalinii “Bright Gem” are a staple for the potager’s two central paths’ edges.  They are just so darned cute,Tulip edging close 5-8-18  with their big flowers on tiny plants.  I smile every time I see them.  Barring extreme weather, they are long-lasting as well, and it’s certain that the fairies love them.

Otherwise, this year’s selections were a bit different from past years.  After careful observation of the past three year’s show, it was decided that more color was needed later in May rather than early May when some daffodils are in full force.  To remedy that, a collection of 300 late May tulips was ordered, and the number of earlier tulips was reduced to only two very choice varieties.  Foxy Foxtrot  The big winner last year was a new one, “Foxy Foxtrot,” a double-flowered early beauty in my favorite color, marmalade orange with shading to lemon yellow and apricot.  It edged out the previous favorite “Charming Beauty” because it seemed to last a bit longer and was just a tad brighter.  Only 12-14″ tall, Foxy Foxtrot is a standout in the front edges so, this year their number was doubled so they could be planted in the Front Garden, in the conspicuous part of the Deck Garden, and in the potager’s interior border.  “Foxy” bloomed in late April last year into early May, just as the early daffodils were disappearing.  In those same areas groups of Triumph (a cross between Darwin and Early tulips) “Annie Schilder” went in.  Isn’t she gorgeous!  Just luminous! Tulip Annie Schilder “Annie” is a luscious warm orange with a deeper orange interior and a yellow base.  At 18″ she goes behind the “Foxy” plantings and struts her stuff from the very end of April into the second week of May.

So, now we come to the newcomers to the gardens here, the “Late May” collection from Van Engelen which is made of 6 tall (28-30″) tulips (50 of each) that will go in the back of borders.  By the time they are fading the perennials will nicely hide their browning foliage, but the flowers will easily float above any emerging perennials.  The two shortest of the group (28″) are Tulip “El Nino” and Tulip “Hocus Pocus.” Tulip El Nino “El Nino” is a luscious apricot amber so it will go behind the groupings of “Annie Schilder” due to its height.  It should be perfect against the paler apricot brick of the house.  A few will also go into the potager interior border, to add some late color before the alliums bloom.  Tulip Hocus Pocus  Because of its bright yellow petals with red streaks, “Hocus Pocus” is a departure from the normal palette of apricots and oranges, so they will go into the Front Island, and a few in the potager exterior border.  Tulip Blushing Lady  Tulip “Blushing Lady” is one I’ve had before, and a few of them actually returned for an encore performance the following year, something that does not usually happen here with any but the species tulips. It’s going into the back of the potager’s exterior border, where its pale yellow petals with pale rose shading will stand out against the fence.  And a few of them went into the Front Island along with “Hocus Pocus” since they are similar.

Three 30″ varieties were mixed together before planting in the potager’s interior border, largely where the tallest dahlias came out.  Tulip Big BrotherTulip “Big Brother” is listed as apricot-salmon.  I’m hoping it’s not too pink! Tulip Temple of Beauty “Tulip “Temple of Beauty” is salmon-rose, although in this photo from Van Englelen’s website it appears more orange, and I’m hoping that will be the case.  However,  I suspect it will be too pink for my tastes, but it was part of the collection ordered, so it gets a chance.  “Tulip “Temple’s Favorite” (sorry, no photo) is nasturtium orange, so I expect to love it!  hyacinthoide excelsior  Also in the Front Island, because it is lightly shaded on the north side went 12-15″ Hyacinthoides “Excelsior” with it’s purple-blue spikes.  It’s deer and rodent repellent, and I’m hoping the squirrels that visit the black walnut trees there will avoid not only them but the tulips as well!  Wishful thinking?  They are listed as blooming in May, so we’ll just have to wait to see exactly when in May that happens.  And, hopefully they will naturalize a bit.  I received 2 huge (the size of duck eggs) hyacinthoid bulbs “Blue Arrow” as a gift from Simple Pleasures Bulbs & Perennials.  Hyacinthoide Blue Arrow  Unfortunately the packaging doesn’t say how tall they will be but judging from the bulb size, I’m guessing 2′ or more so they are also in the Front Island.

Also in the potager’s interior border went 10 white allium “Ping Pong.”  The majority of allium bulbs planted there in the past two years have rotted, so I’ve raised the soil level a bit and will try them again.  Wish them luck!  That’s 837 bulbs, and I ran out before any were planted in the North or South Islands, the Cutting Garden, or under the Lady Cottage’s window box area!  I guess I should have ordered more!  Maybe I’ll just check to see if there are any “end of the season” sales going on….

 

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My first LEEK!

Leek French Baby  While it may not impress many of you who grow leeks successfully, and probably have for years, I’m elated!  I finally grew and harvested a leek!  This was not my first attempt.  Last year, I seeded some “American Flag” leeks, and a few germinated, grew terribly slow, were transplanted into the potager, and never became much bigger than pencils.

After studying seed catalogs over the winter, I selected this variety for another try.  Leek French  I’ve always had good luck with Renee Shepherd’s seeds, and this smaller, quicker leek seemed the best option.  Only a pinch of seed was sown last March, because we don’t use a lot of leeks and this was just a test.  However, I think every seed germinated and quickly grew into a sturdy transplant.  Over the winter, I had watched an episode of “Lavender and Leeks” showing Katie planting leeks into her allotment.   (It’s my favorite You-Tube view, so check it out if you haven’t before.)  I’d always thought you had to dig a big trench, plant the leeks in the bottom and slowly fill it as they grew, rather like celery.  I’m sure that’s a standard method, but Katie just makes a deep dibble hole and sticks the transplant in.   So, that’s what I did, except I filled the hole around each transplant with good compost to offer more food.  There was more rain this year, and I think that helped as well.

The result was a patch of lovely, large leeks.  The leeks are actually larger than I expected, growing a good 2′ tall and 2″ in diameter.  Some are slightly larger, some are slightly smaller, but I’m happy with them all.  The first one harvested (shown above) provided 10″ of usable, deliciousness and was turned into a tasty traditional leek-potato soup.  Leek soup  We had eaten all but this last little bit before I remember to take a photo!  There are still several leeks left, so I’m open to ideas for other ways to use my wonderful crop.   Next, I’m making the “Leek and Cod Gratin” from Georgeanne Brennan’s book “Potager, Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style.”  Any other recipe suggestions?

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October Monthly Review

October began with adding pumpkins and the wooden pumpkins along the potager fence, as you can see above.  Orange is my happy color, so adding more of it to all the gardens is always a fun task.  Fall front door pot  For the first time, there were even some “Baby Bear” pumpkins from the potager to use in the decorations, along with some colorful winter squash.  The rest of the month flew past quickly, mainly because a chunk in the middle was used for traveling.  Not much happens in the potager when the gardener is away!  However, there was some work early in the month such as garlic planting and the normal harvesting.  After travel there was clean-up from frosts, dahlia digging, bulb planting, and summer furniture storage in addition to more harvests.

The only preserving was the basil freezing mentioned in an earlier post, carrying baskets of winter squash to the garage, drying a few herbs, and pickling a lot of beets.

The harvest total for October was only 71 pounds, compared to 103.5 pounds in 2017.  The main poundage this year came from winter squash, and beets, with some peas, beans, spinach, lettuce and a few carrots.  Various herbs harvested for teas and the kitchen jars were not weighed as the amounts were small. There was only one lonely pot of sweet potatoes (Will definitely do more next year! The difference?  There was no massive tomato harvest just before frost this year.  I planted fewer tomatoes on purpose, but I should have put in at least a plant or two for late harvests.  That will certainly be put in the notes for next year.  The potager’s first year I had it right, but didn’t realize it, so I “improved” last year and had way, way too many at the end of the season.  So this year I “fixed” it, and got it completely wrong!  One would think it would be perfected by now!  Hopefully it will be next year (next year’s garden is always perfect…all winter long!)    Jalapenas dead  And, because I was away, pounds and pounds of peppers and beans succumbed to the frosts so they could not be added to the harvest total.  Just look at all those jalapenos wasted!

Overall, I’m satisfied with October’s results, especially when I think ahead to the bleak upcoming months of little, and then no harvest.  Then my satisfaction must come from the well-stocked pantry and freezer, the garlic, shallot, and onion braids hanging from the allium rack, the baskets of squash, potatoes, and pumpkins, and the jam-packed shelves of dried herbs, jams and jellies.  And just think…next month the new seed catalogs begin to arrive in droves!

If you’d like to read about a wonderful garden in Georgia, or get my new recipe for apple mint bread pudding, go to my October newsletter at Carolee’s Herb Farm.

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Six on Saturday-Oct. 27

It’s the FINAL Saturday in October!  What a blink this month was, with a transition from the heat of summer at the first of the month to definite autumnal cool temperatures with frost from mid-month to these final days.  Here’s my “Six”, and I hope you will visit The Propagator to see everyone else’s picks.  Mum Sheffield 1) Mum “Sheffield Hills” is my favorite, adding lots of color outdoors and in bouquets for indoors.  It’s a soft apricot-pink with loads of 2″ daisies.  Extremely hardy and easy to grow.  It blooms now, when all the annuals are browned by frost, so it’s especially appreciated.  2)  Frost brings an end to the annuals, but also for the most part, an end to the insects that have plagued the potager this summer.  Rose  Finally, there are roses without Japanese beetles.  And, 3) solid kale leaves growing without dozens of lacy holes.Kale  Exciting things have happened while I was away painting. Blackberry cuttings 4)  The blackberry cuttings I took to finish the row have all rooted in the former potato pots.  If I get a nice day, I’ll plant them out yet this fall.  The Folk School served a delicious Blackberry French Toast casserole that I hope to duplicate!   Garlic emerging  5) Yesterday’s rain brought up the recently planted garlic, so the 2019 harvest is off to a great start! Bulb space And lastly, the bulb order arrived while I was away, so I’ve been digging the dahlias from the potager’s interior border and planting a variety of bulbs in their space.  Doesn’t look like much now, but just wait until next Spring!

So, that’s my “Six” for the end of October.  It’s going to be harder to come up with interesting items in the coming months, as the gardening season winds down and out, but I’m sure everyone will do their best to be innovative.  And, thankfully, there are folks who are just coming into spring gardens on the other side of the world to keep our spirits up!

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Painting again!

JC scenery  For years and years, I’ve promised myself a trip to the fabulous John C. Campbell Folk School, located in the mountains near Murphy, N.C.  Established over 90 years ago, this school is famous for its classes in many (47!) artistic mediums:  blacksmithing, pottery, weaving, spinning, printmaking, music, leatherwork, lace tatting, cooking, gardening, all types of painting, bead-making, dyeing, photography, quilting, needlework, wood carving, basketry and lots, lots more.  Their inspiring instructors come from all over the U.S.  Classes are kept small for individual attention, and it’s a committed non-competitive environment.  My dear cousin and I went for the “Plen air Landscape Painting” class, with internationally known artist Mary Jane Volkmann.

Forty years ago, I painted a half-dozen landscapes with a friend who painted well, but haven’t touched a brush since then.  Before I become too palsied to hold a brush steady with eyesight too murky to see colors clearly, I wanted to paint again.  The Folk School was a perfect way to jump back in.   JC view It’s located in a gorgeous part of the country on a multi-acre “campus”  with lots of open spaces and interesting buildings that have been converted into studios, classroom spaces, and various types of housing. JC log cabin   Although it looks quaint and rustic, you’ll find the latest in equipment for woodworking or photography, etc. but also the traditional tools and methods when called for.  Surrounded by woodlands, mountains, and wonderful people from all across the country just being there was a delight. JC bench No matter where you turn, there is art in evidence, whether by former students or teachers, or by Mother Nature!       JC herb garden   Imagine my delight, when I looked out the window of my assigned housing, to see an herb garden below!  Fate had no doubt planned this lovely surprise just for me.  Whenever I got frustrated with my brush, I calmed by touching leaves of my faithful friends:  rosemary, basil, sage, thyme and more.  Here’s Davidson House, where I lodged.  Davidson Hall  Photo was taken from the herb garden.  We were on the second floor.  The “Fiddle” class was on the bottom floor during the day!  There are flowers and gardens everywhere, and small spaces to just sit and contemplate or dream.  JC flowers

The week of morning and afternoon classes sped by exceedingly fast, but I learned SO MUCH.  I will never look at the world before me in the same way again.  Now every view, every sky, every tree is studied for its light value, the perspective, its prospect as a subject for a future painting.  My cousin, Eve, and I (standing) enjoyed not only the painting and beautiful setting, but our time together.Eve & I painting I managed to do 3 paintings, plus some value and color studies.   The important thing is that it boosted my confidence, not to mention my abilities, and sky-rocketed my desire to put paint on canvas!

Here’s the dining hall.  JC Dining Hall The food was delicious and plentiful, served family-style.  So delicious, in fact, that I gained 6 pounds!  (Obviously, my self-restraint was entirely on vacation as well!)   Lots of the food comes from the extensive gardens and the herb garden.  There’s even a small flock of chickens to patrol for bugs.  JC chickens There were lots of evening activities from local tours, to readings, folk dancing, and concerts but I was too tired (too old!!) to manage attending those. Exhibit I did attend the exhibit at week’s end of all the items various classes had made, and it was truly amazing.  That’s the work of our class above.  Pretty impressive since some people had never painted at all!  Everyone exhibited at least one work.  In case you’re wondering, mine are the ones bottom row right “Three trees and mountains” and far right on the same table is “tree trunks and road.”  The interaction with fellow classmates was so supportive, and we all choked up a bit as it was time to say farewell.

If going to a beautiful setting, with great people to learn more about an artistic venture appeals to you, please go to https://folkschool.org and click on the “Find a Class” button on the top right.  You won’t believe the opportunities that await!  I’m hoping to take a class on making kaleidoscopes and another painting class soon!   JC Craft shop  Even if you can’t squeeze in a class, a visit to the fabulous Craft Shop is an enlightening experience.  Not only will you find the best of works by the instructors, but also by the area’s talented crafters.

 

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And the Frost came…

Frosted front garden  while I was away.  I knew it had come, and dreaded the sight would greet me upon my return.  Death everywhere, beginning in the Front Garden as I pulled into the driveway.  Of course at the time, it was too dark to see, but I knew it would look just like the picture above this morning…and it did.  It does….

I made a cup of strong tea to bolster my courage before I journeyed across the frost-covered lawn to the potager.  The perky marigolds that have been stalwart edgers along the central paths for months could not survive 31 degree nights.  The pumpkin vines on the lower right are goners.  Frosted edging  The blackened pepper plants were to be expected.  Frosted peppers  I should have picked more before I left.  Oh well….  And the same for the very last planting of beans, which were almost ready when I left, but for some reason, none of the people who watered or came to pick while I was gone saw them.  Sad, really, as they were lovely.  Frosted beans  Now they are mushy.  Not appealing or usable.   Frosted cannellini The shade provided by the climbing cannellini beans over the old bench is no longer.  It will be many months before I can sit shaded there.  Sigh!  A southern specialty, the black-eye peas on the fence wish I had taken them with me to the South, I’m sure.  Frosted black eye  However, the purple-toned mustard and the young rows of spinach are entirely happy with the cooler weather.  They love autumn.  I celebrate that some things are still merrily growing.  Just look at the color of this bed of “OutREDgeous” lettuce!  Lettuce Outredgeous  And soon all those black, dead plants will be piled on the compost bins and the garden will be tidy and pretty again.  It did not rain much while I was away, so the garlic has not emerged, but there was a big storm that took out power and brought down tree limbs, so now one of the tree roses is tilted.  Rose Tilted  It’s best not to dwell on what is lost, but to concentrate on the positives.  There are dahlias to dig, bulbs to plant, and poly-tunnels to erect.  There are still carrots to dig, leeks to harvest, and beets to pickle.  Chin up!  Carry on!  Move forward.  There will be lovely gardening days ahead, and I’d better make the most of them.  31 will tumble to 13 before we know it!

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Garlic is Planted!

Garlic planted  Somehow it is always comforting, as the current growing season comes to an end, that the act of planting cloves of garlic marks the beginning of the next growing season.  It’s an act of faith that the cloves will slowly grow roots over the winter, emerge next spring, and that we will again be here to tend and harvest.  Tuesday was a lovely autumn day for planting.  I removed the few weeds that had sprouted and added a layer of compost to each bed.  Long-time readers will note that the potager’s plan will return to horizontal rows, rather than diagonals for next year.  And notice how well the new “Hot Pak Orange” marigolds that edge the central path are still performing at this late date.  In former years, the “Boy” series were already ragged and weary.  Trays of cured hardneck garlic were carried from the Lady Cottage and the largest bulbs were selected of each variety, carefully pulled apart to keep the skin of each clove intact, and gently pushed into the loosened soil in measured rows.  It’s a task that I find immensely gratifying, planting another generation of the garlic I’ve saved since the first year of the potager three years ago.

2018 was not a good year for alliums in our area of central Indiana.  The onions grew large but are not “keeping” as well as normal.  The shallots grew weirdly, some without dividing into separate bulbs, and many rotting long before the tops even thought about turning beige.  Several of my carefully braided shallots have already spoiled.  This has never happened in my gardening experience, which shows one can’t really determine an outcome even after forty-plus years of planting.  No wonder first time, and second-time gardeners get discouraged!  And, now the garlic is showing signs that it may not store well through the winter either.  Many of the nice-looking bulbs actually have a spoiled clove or two, when the outer layers are peeled away.  But, fortunately there are plenty of good cloves for planting, and hopefully 2019 will be a better year for the onion family.

The number of varieties has been reduced slightly, because now that I no longer do market, we don’t need as much.  However, I like the vertical design element garlic adds to the potager’s design, and their strong stems are useful for supporting low-growing peas and beans.  This year, three rows are going in the center of several beds, with room for the edging along central paths where required, and a row of something else on the opposite side.  Spinach and lettuce work well, and both appreciate the shade of the tall garlic for part of the day.   My very favorite garlics because of reliability in size and flavor are:  “Mary Jane,” “Killarney Red,” and “Deerfield Purple.”  I also planted some “Khobor,” “Romanian Red,” and “Rosewood.”  Some years these last three perform extremely well, and sometimes (like this year) not as well, but when they do, they are excellent.

Of course, planting the garlic in fall requires that the basic planting plan for the 2019 season is already thoughtfully graphed.  This autumn however, with the decent weather continuing longer than usual, some beds designated for garlic weren’t empty.  Where crops still thrived, I skipped planting.  Hopefully, once the beans have been harvested, the peas frozen, the lettuces picked and the beets pickled there will still be a nice day or two and the remainder of the garlic plan can be completed.  It’s doubtful these old bones could have completed the project anyway.  As it was, the muscles determined that Wednesday was a day of rest, which worked out well since it rained anyway!

Garlic is an easy crop to grow, relatively pest-free.  It does require good drainage, full sun, and good soil.  Side-dressing monthly with compost or manure tea will help it grow large bulbs since it is a heavy feeder.  And, a light mulch to prevent weed competition is always appreciated.  Hardneck garlic is best to grow in our area (Zone 5) and I prefer it in the kitchen as well.  It grows a single row of large cloves around a central stem (picture the sections of an orange) rather than layers of small cloves (picture an artichoke.)  It is generally planted in October and harvested in July.

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